Thursday, October 15, 2009

“How do I Get an Offer on My Home?”

Whether you have had tried to sale your house for a week, month, or a year this question comes up all the time. My initial advice to sellers is to make sure they price their home correctly. Set a price at the median of your property’s realistic price range. How do you accomplish this? Get an appraisal. I know, I know. It cost money, but leaving money on the table from pricing your home too low or making interest payments, paying taxes, insurance, and paying for maintenance on a home from over pricing your house to begin with will cost you far more than the appraisal in the long run. An appraisal will give you current sales comparables to help you determine a high and a low for your neighborhood. If you price your home right, it will sell.

Beyond this you must prepare for visits from potential buyers. Get your house market ready at least two or three weeks before you begin showing it. Think about this process as if you were walking up to your front door for the first time. Is the hardware on your front door tarnished and scratched up? Is the finish in “vogue” at the present or is it out of style? Look at new homes that are on the market in the price range of your home. If all of them have oil rubbed bronze front door hardware, for example, and you have a brass front door knob it may make sense to bring your door hardware up to date with current styles or finishes. For many people they like the idea of buying a new home. Make your house feel like new.

Remember that placing a pot of seasonal flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch is not only a good idea when you are entertaining, but also when you are selling your house. Edge the grass around walkways and trees. Keep your garden tools and hoses out of sight. Keep clutter such as toys and yard art cleared from the lawn. I have even had sellers buy a new mailbox, and upgrade outside lighting in an attempt to add curb appeal. As far as outside lighting is concerned, it can be done rather inexpensively today. Make sure you buy a new doormat for the outside of your front door. Put a basket with disposable “shoe covers” right inside the door to show that you care for your home. Also, nothing says “home” like a seasonal wreath on your door. Even something simple like house numbers should be either polished or replaced.

Repair any cracks in the driveway. This is a suggestion I normally give. I am actually more concerned however with cracks in a basement slab than I am with cracks in the driveway. People from the Northeast who move into our area are more aware of Radon than we Southerners. Cracks in the basement slab might be a problem to them that could either cause a contract to fall apart or cause a hiccup during the due diligence process. Be mindful of fixing anything that could cause a hindrance to a sale.

On the interior of your home I would start with removing clutter and cleaning off counters. Keep everything extra clean. A clean house will make a strong first impression and send a message to buyers that the home has been well-cared for. Get rid of smells. Remember that some air fresheners “mask” smells. I previewed a house recently where the air freshener intended to hide dog odors was far more offensive than the dog could have been on its own. This means when in doubt, have the carpet professionally cleaned.

Brighten your rooms by putting higher wattage bulbs in light fixtures to brighten up rooms and basements. Also, don’t disregard minor repairs. You want the house to show as “like new” as possible. If you ask most closing attorneys in town they will tell you that a 5 year-old house in our area is “outdated” now a days with new construction inventory on the market. Your house needs to feel like a “new home.”

You need to set the scene by making centerpieces for your tables. From nicer than every day table settings and candles to creating other vignettes throughout the home you are helping buyers picture living there. You don’t need to pay the extravagant pricing for a Home Staging Company to do what you can do yourself with a little forethought.

Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light, and show off the view, if you have one. It should go without saying, but make sure windows are cleaned, inside and outside.

Finally, make the bathrooms feel luxurious. A tip, any good Home Stager always stages the bathrooms. You as the homeowner should do no differently.

Make sure you are flexible about showings. It’s often disruptive to have a house ready to show at the spur of the moment. But the more amenable you can be about letting people see your home, the sooner you’ll find a buyer. 

As you start the showing process make sure you anticipate the offers. Decide in advance what price and terms you’ll find acceptable. 

Lastly, and this is hard for most of us to accept if we feel we have priced our house correctly to begin with, don’t refuse to drop the price. If your home has been on the market for more than 60 days without an offer and selling season is drawing to a close, you should be prepared to at least consider lowering your asking price. This is one reason I mentioned to price your house in the median price range per your appraisal. This gives you room to move lower without feeling as if you gave something away.

In summary, if you take my initial advice and price your home correctly it will sell, but it takes painting the picture to help a buyer envision themselves in your home to procure a contract!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Home Shopper’s Wish Lists

Shopping for a home is an exciting adventure and it’s easy to get lost in a sea of dazzling for-sale homes and all of their fabulous amenities – which can cause you to temporarily forget that a large backyard is your top priority. To keep yourself focused, take time to identify and organize exactly what you’re looking for in a home by creating thorough “must-have” and “wish” lists before you begin home shopping. You may also want to make a third list that details your dislikes.

To get started ask yourself these questions: Which items and features must your home have? Which items and features would you like to have, but could live without? What would your dream house include, and what features or issues must you avoid?

For the must-have list, try to focus on essentials and hard-to-change details, like a home’s layout. If you must have a three-bedroom, two-bath house, put it on the list. Ranking your must-haves in order of importance is also a good idea.

Hard-to-change, must-have features can include the type of house, for example, a two-story colonial or a sprawling rancher; the number of rooms or square footage; the home’s proximity to shopping; or its overall condition. Your must-have list can’t be too detailed because it aims to itemize the features that are most important to you and your family.

Your wish list is the flexible and fun list. Wish lists are good for cosmetic features that would be great to have, but that can be changed. Hardwood floors can replace old wall-to-wall carpeting. If the yard is large enough and has adequate open space, a pool can be installed later, and landscaping can be a work in progress. Since the wish list is a secondary, there are no limits so be sure to also include your dream amenities.

While compiling your lists, don’t hesitate to confer with your real estate professional, who is a great resource for information about neighborhoods, homes and other pertinent “must-have” information.

Once you have determined your must-haves and optional features, create a checklist to take with you during your home tours. Besides helping you stay focused, it will provide an organized review of each house.

Your lists will most likely change as you tour homes and see what the market really has to offer. It’s also unlikely that one house will include all of your must-have features. But, your efforts will be well worth it once you find the perfect house that includes just enough must-haves and even a few wishes. Your perfect home might not include that must-have basement, but its view may be a dream home come true!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

5 Questions to Always ask any Lender

Buying a home for most people is the single biggest investment of their lifetime. That being said, it is extremely important for all buyers to have criteria they use in choosing their lender who will be responsible for getting them into a loan that best fits their needs. As you know, a reliable lender makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the loan process.
1) Does my lender have reputation of closing loans promptly and working with my agent, ensuring a personal commitment of accountability to closing my loan as quoted and on time?

2) Does my lender have access to real-time quotes from dozens lending sources to guarantee me the most competitive rate that is available in the market place?

3) Does my lender commit to returning my phone calls quickly and to counsel with me regarding all the loan options available to me, while keeping my highest financial objectives in mind?

4) Does my lender have a team of experienced mortgage professionals surrounding them to provide support and problem solve quickly on a local level, including the ability to use local appraisers?

5) Does my lender have complete control of my loan with local in-house processing, underwriting, closing and funding?

Feel free to contact me at any time for any reason as I am always available.
Provided by Russ Tanner of Adams and Associates Residential Lending Group

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why Won't My House Sell?!?!

You have Heard that "Cash is King," well "Price rules the Roost." In many if not most cases, the reason a property doesn't sell is price. In the market we find ourselves in today you can price a home correctly at the inception of listing your home for sale, but if you're in the wrong price point your property won't sell. The reason? The credit crunch on jumbo properties and high inventory levels.

When talking home sales in the sub-$200,000 range, first time buyers have kept this segment of the market alive due to the first time buyer tax credit of $8,000. Higher-end homes that require "Step-up Buyers" which are generally homes that require financing over "conforming limits," are piling up on the market and inventory levels are growing in certain areas of the marketplace.

In many areas the highest loan amount you can obtain for a conforming loan is $417,000. Therefore if your property is priced more than $450,000, one key reason it may not be selling is that buyers are unable to obtain financing. I mentioned the words "Step-up Buyer" a minute ago. In this price range properties are definitely step-up properties where buyers may also have a home to sell before they can purchase your home. Compounded is this problem for the Step-up Market in that a high percentage of sellers today have no equity in their current homes. This can render the Step-up market all but impotent.

Does your house show "like new" or is it a train wreck? How is the curb appeal? Does the exterior need pressure washing? Is clutter all you see? Then your potential buyers are seeing it too. START LOOKING at your home in the eyes of a buyer. Remember your objective is to help the buyer your home as "their home."

Real estate comes down to three things: "location, location, location." If you have bought on the wrong side of town, a neighborhood full of foreclosures, or just a bad lot, at this point there is not much you can do about property location. You CAN make sure the price is adjusted accordingly based on the location. "Now wait, wait, wait Hank." I can hear the objections coming. Yes, adjust your price based upon a lesser location. For example, if homes in a given subdivision are priced at $120,000-$130,000 and your home sits on a lot off the entrance of the subdivision and backs up to another main road, then you should adjust down the price of your property. IT WILL NOT sell for what an interior property that backs up to trees might sell for in this market. Not with 12-13 months of inventory on the market for sale. Buyers have too much to pick from and your home will sit if you price it with the other listings in the neighborhood.

Do you, if selling FSBO, or your Realtor have a written marketing plan? Did he or she have a virtual tour made of your property? What's more, did they do a VIDEO tour? How many photos are online? Is it less than 20? If your answers are no, no, no, and less than 10, then you have some issues. Is your home being marketed on at least 30 major Web sites? Any you have ever heard of or do online home shopping on yourself?

Is your home on, your local MLS, Georgia MLS, Yahoo Real Estate, Trulia and Zillow? If not, find out why and make sure your Realtor immediately gets your home marketed on these locations as they are the most-visited online real estate sites according to and other traffic analytic sources. If your agent has no idea how to do this and looks cross-eyed when you mention the word "Zillow," you might need to have a heart to heart chat with them.

If you are having trouble selling your home, figure out where you are on each issue. Also, address any issue you are short on today to get your home sold as soon as possible!

Housing Leads the Way, First Time Home Buyers, and Credit Extensions

Some economists have been suggesting the recession is largely over, and the U.S. economy appears to be breathing new life. A major factor in this resuscitation is the ongoing stabilization and steps toward recovery in the real estate market.

Although the past few months have shown existing-home sales on the rise, in August, sales eased slightly from July, but are still above year-ago levels. The road to recovery is still tenuous, with additional foreclosures expected to enter the market next year.

The Clock is Ticking

To take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit, buyers must close on their home by November 30.
Although efforts are currently underway to extend the tax credit into 2010, this is currently a hard deadline that is fast approaching. As a Real Estate Broker, as I speak to local home buyers I find that the looming deadline is not much of an influence on purchase decisions right now because of the assumption that the credit will be extended into the new year. In Athens we have noticed a surge in sales within the $100k-$200k price range in the last two months. How much of this is because of the credit?

In the past three (3) months I have seen personally only about 20 percent of my closed business be that of purchases by first time home buyers. This is much lower than the national average of 45 percent of sales last month according to the NAR.

In my humble opinion, we cannot afford not to extend this credit as it is probably one of the few economic "stimulus" plans that has actually pumped money into the economy. As I wrote in another blog post, "The Internal Revenue Service reports that so far 1.4 million families have benefitted from the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit. Projections reveal that between 1.8 to 2 million first-time buyers will take advantage of the tax credit this year, and economists estimate that approximately 350,000 of those sales were motivated exclusively because of the incentive.

The tax credit has proven to be an extremely popular incentive. It targets first-time home buyers, who currently represent about 30 percent of current market activity. In addition to benefiting buyers who take advantage of it, the tax credit also contributes to the overall health of the U.S. economy. Economists estimate that each home sale pumps an additional $63,000 into the national economy which also reveals that the housing market is vital to the survival of many different industries. The retail of goods and services like carpeting, furniture, appliances, title companies and insurance, just to name a few, depend on a healthy housing market.

The figures mentioned above would mean that for the $16 billion pumped into the tax credit from Uncle Sam, the result thus far has been a $22 billion stimulus into the economy. Not a bad return on investment!"

Contact Uncle Sam today!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Can You Afford That House?

Before you start searching for your dream home, you first need to determine a price range you can afford. According to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), depending on the consumer’s current debt ratio, most people can typically afford to pay 31 percent of their gross monthly income for mortgage payments. For example, if you earn $50,000 annually, then your monthly income is about $4,167. Thirty-one percent of that is $1,292.

There are several online tools to calculate a monthly mortgage you can afford using factors such as your current monthly expenses, down payment and the interest rate. You can also work with a lender to get pre-qualified for a loan. This estimate will help you gauge how much money you may be able to borrow and the monthly mortgage payments.

However, the amount you are able to afford for a home loan should not be your only consideration for determining your price range. With homeownership come other housing expenses.


The most obvious of additional housing expenses are utilities—gas, electricity and water. But don’t forget about telephone, trash collection, and cable or satellite bills.


As a property owner, you are responsible for property taxes. The rate will vary from city to city. To get a general idea on how much the tax bill will be for a property, ask the seller for a copy of the previous year’s tax assessment. Your real estate professional can help you refine these figures.

Association Dues

Another cost you may incur is homeowner association (HOA) dues. Most condominiums and some (residential developments/subdivisions/neighborhoods) have HOAs, which are legal entities, created to maintain common areas and enforce deed restrictions. As a property owner, you are required to pay the established monthly or annual homeowner association dues. Be sure you factor this cost into your budget.


You also need to consider the upkeep of your home. You should budget for seasonal maintenance such as lawn care, pest inspections and carpet cleaning, as well as unexpected repairs. The amount you budget will depend on the age of the home, as older homes tend to require more repairs such as installing a new roof, painting and replacing older appliances.

Depending on the type of coverage and your area, the costs for homeowners insurance each year can be anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. And, if you live in an area that has high risks for flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., you may need supplemental insurance.


Unless the home you purchase is picture perfect, you’ll more than likely be adding your personal touch. Therefore, you need add to your housing budget the costs for remodeling and upgrades. According to “Remodeling Magazine’s” 2007 Cost vs. Value Report, the national average for a midrange minor kitchen remodel is $21,185; a bathroom remodel averages $15,789.
Even minor cosmetic fix-ups such as light fixtures, window treatments, carpeting and decorative cabinet knobs can begin to add up.

By determining all the costs associated with homeownership, you can go into your home search with a reasonable price range that will allow you stay within your budget.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ideas for Selling your Home in a Slow Market

Consumer Reports, the trusted rater of goods and services, also offers information for homeowners through tried and true ways to quickly sell homes.

Seek representation from a REALTOR who knows the area. Seek local agents know the area. Have several of them give you a presentation to justify your home’s value and explain their marketing technique.

Know your Market. A good agent can help you understand market conditions and the latest prices because she or he has access to closed sales data before they become public records. He’ll also possibly have knowledge about the details of the sales including concessions and other giveaways that may not show up in the final price.

Give something to get something, i.e..a sale! Offer to pay toward closing costs, promise to include tangible items like a TV or new kitchen appliances or allowances toward updating paint, cabinets, etc. Consumer Reports reported sellers offering vacations, golf carts, a period of monthly condo assessment or maintenance fees, moving expenses and the first mortgage payment. Get creative. If your neighborhood does not have a pool or health club, offer a year’s membership at a community pool and club. This offers an amenity that your neighborhood might not have that a competing house selling nearby could offer through a neighborhood pool which might cost you a sale.

Obtain a home warranty. Consumer Reports said, depending upon the coverage, costs range from $250 to $400 from companies like American Home Shield and First American Home Buyers Protection Corp.

Make sure you have curb appeal. Curb appeal is a potential buyer’s first impression of your home. It should bring out a gotta-have-it desire that might make that buyer grab his or her cell phone to call for an appointment! Unmaintained landscaping, litter and “yard art” will turn people away.

Stage your home, whether it is occupied or vacant. If you have a vacant home, staging helps define each room so that your average home buyer might more clearly see your property’s potential. Obtain professional staging if you don’t have home decor talent on your own. Your home will be more appealing to a wider variety of buyers, according to Consumer Reports. Even Staging a home that has your “stuff” in it by removing clutter and cleaning house until is sparkles is part of the effort. Bad odors are turn offs. Staging can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars but it can be worth the price and some real estate agents include some staging as part of their service so it may not cost you a dime if you push it over to the REALTORS side of the equation.

When buyers know market conditions are in their favor, expect them to let you know that they know. And don’t forget, anything in the real estate deal is negotiable so don’t leave that deal breaking kids swing set in the backyard if you don’t want it to become part of the negotiating process. Also, don’t have feelings hurt with low-ball offers. Leave emotions out of it.

Update your Listing Regularly. Consumer Reports says don’t use out-of-season photos with your listing. It tells buyers you’ve got a white elephant that isn’t moving. With browsing for housing now a common practice among buyers don’t overlook virtual tours, your own property web site or blog for your home. Also, when working with a REALTOR make sure that every 150 or so days that they renew the listing with a new MLS number. Nothing screams at REALTORs who may have a potential buyer for your property that you have a white elephant that is not moving than for them to pull from the MLS that you have had your house on the market for 200,300, 400 days or longer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Avoid These Seller Mistakes

You want to get the best price for your home, plus sell it in the least amount of time. In a buyers’ market such as the one emerging now, homes will take longer to sell. Therefore, it’s important that you make the right moves at the very beginning of your homeselling process to remain competitive. Here are some common traps that many homeowners fall into and how to avoid them.

1. Over-pricing — It’s easy to think your home is worth more than the current market may support, particularly after the long run-up in home prices. Since home prices have cooled in markets around the country, home sellers must be prepared to negotiate on price and terms, and stay flexible to other stipulations benefiting the buyer. Sellers must also keep their emotions in check during the process. After all, your home is special to you and your family, and you’re proud of the improvements you’ve made over the years. But, how does your home really stand up to the others? And are those improvements important to a potential buyer?

To determine a reasonable listing price, get sales statistics on homes in the neighborhood including listing prices and actual sales prices, how long it took for the homes to sell, and government valuation comparisons. You’ll also want a market appraisal on your property. Visit homes for sale in your area and compare what you see in terms of sales appeal.

2. Negligent Housekeeping — Buyers need to be able to envision themselves living in the home. Take a good, objective look at the condition of your home. Clean, well-kept homes with an updated appearance always stand out, and a little decorating appeal can go a long way. You don’t have to buy new furniture to create charm, but you can put toys and clutter away, freshen up paint and carpet, make the most of window coverings, and add a few key accessories in order to send out welcoming signals.

3. Failing to Fix-It — Buyers, unless they are looking for a fixer-upper, would prefer to move into a home that is in perfect or near-perfect condition. If they have to fix the roof, a broken tile floor, the garage door, worn carpet or just about anything, this may give them pause about buying. At the very least, it may lower the value of the home in the prospective buyer’s mind.

4. Not Identifying Exclusions — This can be a cause of contention just at a critical point in the sale. Be sure to specify any special sales considerations or exclusions from the fixtures and furnishings list. Generally, anything permanently fixed to the house is an asset that stays with the home after the sale. So if you intend to take your grandmother’s antique chandelier that’s hanging in the dining room, clearly specify that the chandelier is not included in the sale price.

5. Not Understanding the Agent Agreement — Your sales endeavor will go smoothest when all parties have a clear understanding of what is expected. Understand the types of agency agreements when you sign with a real estate professional or company.

Be sure to check on fees, commission percentages, marketing plans and time frames. Most importantly, get everything in writing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

From Savvy with Staging to Scintillating about Short Sales!

The In's and Out's of the short sale is something of interest to buyers and of great concern to sellers today. Here is a brief eight (8) question quiz to see if you understand the process before jumping into the fray.

Several Great Links from


Smooth Short Sales: Tips from a Lender
From the 2008 REALTORS® Midyear Meetings, a lender offers advice for preventing transaction delays and preparing your clients for what lies ahead.

2008 List Issue: 4 Reasons Lenders Want to Work With You on Short Sales


If you are a buyer in our market, these are probably the best buying conditions in 30 years! If you would like to search the Athens MLS with MapTracks please take a look at listings in our “Classic City” today! On this web MLS search solution you can search every listing on the Georgia MLS for the Greater Athens area or in your Georgia town!

Selling Prices; FSBO vs. Agent-Listed Home Sales

Source: 2009 NAR Member Profile

According to statistics from the National Association of Realtors, all sellers in the Home Buyer and Seller survey reported a median sales price of $204,900.

The survey also found that the median sales price of a for sale by owner home reported was $153,000. The median sales price of an Realtor-assisted home sale reported was $211,000. According to the Survey, "There are a number of factors that play into the sales price of a home, including whether a FSBO seller knew the home buyer. If the seller knew the buyer the median sales price reported was $150,100. Agent-assisted sales can be broken down into two categories. Those who first tried to sell their home as a FSBO and those who were only agent assisted. Those who tried to sell their home as a FSBO first had a slightly lower median sales price."


If you are a buyer in our market, these are probably the best buying conditions in 30 years! If you would like to search the Athens MLS with MapTracks please take a look at listings in our “Classic City” today! On this web MLS search solution you can search every listing on the Georgia MLS for the Greater Athens area or in your Georgia town!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ways to Expedite Sale

As we see the end of prime "selling season" coming in the next few weeks, getting your home sold quickly remains a trial in many markets statewide. Here is some advice, and some of it is not easy to hear, but it is reality.


Cut your list price to 15 percent to 20 percent below what comparable properties are listed for in your neighborhood or surrounding area.

Spruce up the outside. Update the landscaping. Power-wash the exterior and paint the door.Anything that looks "uncared for" will appear to today's foreclosure hungry shark of a buyer as a wounded guppy in the water.

It's all about the first-time buyers. Advertise on younger consumers' favorite Web sites, such as Facebook and MySpace. Hiring a photographer to shoot the house with a wide-angle lens, extra lighting, and even do some panned shots to get that virtual tour effect is a great idea. Video that you can place on YouTube is another great idea.

Be aware of how incrementally pricing a house can make a difference. Be aware of how people shop online. For example, a $299,000 house might have a better shot of being seen at $274,900 or $249,900 in most home searches. Think of $25,000 increments and put yourself in the shoes of a buyer to see if "you" would find your house on a given home search based on how its' priced considering your home's features.

Make the deal work. Have a pre-home listing inspection done to know of any potential deal killers that may arise, get an appraisal done to make sure you are on the money regarding price so that a future buyer appraisal has less likelihood of killing a deal, offer to pay part closing costs, and throw in everything including the kitchen sink or prepay HOA fees to make it work. If you live in a neighborhood with no community pool, but there is a pool right down the street, pay for a summer membership to set yourself different than your neighboring competition.

If you are a buyer in our market, these are probably the best buying conditions in 30 years! If you would like to search the Athens MLS with MapTracks please take a look at listings in our “Classic City” today! On this web MLS search solution you can search every listing on the Georgia MLS for the Greater Athens area or in your Georgia town!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One More Reason to Move to Athens, we are Undervalued

Athens, Georgia's latest press coverage; One More Reason to Move to Athens!

According to the article from U.S News and World Report, and based upon IHS Global Insight’s first-quarter 2009 House Prices in America report which uses population density, household income, and other data to compare a housing market's current value with where it should be on a purely statistical basis, U.S. News states that they put together a list of the top underpriced college towns.

Of Athens, they state that our “Classic City” is undervalued by 17 percent according to the IHS Global Insight data. That is “undervalued,” which if you are looking to make a move to a new lifestyle for all your tomorrows, this is one more reason why I have to encourage you to look hard at Athens, GA!

  1. Houston: 37 percent undervalued
  2. Atlanta: 24 percent undervalued
  3. Bryan-College Station, Texas: 21 percent undervalued
  4. Columbus, Ohio: 21 percent undervalued
  5. South Bend, Ind.: 19 percent undervalued
  6. Ann Arbor, Mich.:19 percent undervalued.
  7. Athens, Ga.: 17 percent undervalued
  8. Tallahassee, Fla. : 17 percent undervalued
  9. Gainesville, Fla.: 17 percent undervalued
  10. Lincoln, Neb.: 16 percent undervalued
  11. Minneapolis-St. Paul : 16 percent undervalued
  12. Boston: 16 percent undervalued
  13. Fayetteville, Ark: 15 percent undervalued
  14. San Luis Obispo, Calif.: 14 percent undervalued
  15. Columbia, Mo.: 14 percent undervalued